Tag Archives: Heat

A Week In Film #515: Two new, one old

Sweet Virginia
Sort-of-noir thriller from Jamie M Dagg, which is missing something but is still more interesting than most. Jon Bernthal is a meek motel manager into whose life crashes a sociopathic contract killer (Christopher Abbott).

A Futile And Stupid Gesture
Big, brash and ultimately unlikeable comedy biopic about a bunch of dicks who establish National Lampoon. David Wain directs, Will Forte is Doug Kenned and Domhnall Gleeson is Henry Beard.

Cold paletted brain fluff. It’s Pacino’s tiny telly I feel sorry for.

A Week In Film #483: Safely on the board

Safe House
Semi-retread of Three Days Of The Condor, with junior CIA dogsbody Ryan Reynolds dragged into a shady conspiracy. Inconsequential, watchable action fluff from Daniel Espinosa.

Same ball park as Toast but not as wittily executed. Julian Barratt is a has-been actor best-known for playing the lead in a crappy 80s detective show who tries to relive his glory days by running around the Isle of Man hunting down an escaped madman. Written by Barratt and fellow cast member Simon Farnaby, directed by Sean Foley.

Another outing for L.A. Takedown v2.0.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Martin Ritt’s peerless le Carré adaptation, with Richard Burton as burned out ex-intelligence officer Alec Leamas our tethered goat.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Not as good as the hype seemed to suggest, but certainly very watchable. Definitely a black comedy rather than a drama. Written and directed by my second favourite filmmaking McDonagh. Good cast – Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage.

[9 Rota title screen]
9 Rota AKA 9th Company
‘The Russian Platoon’ and all that – bunch of kids conscripted into the army are swiftly dehumanised by the brutality of war (here Afghanistan rather than Viet Nam). Of course, we have our grizzled veteran NCOs to help lick them into shape, etc. Flag-waving, bombastic guff from Fedor Bondarchuk, but not without a professional gleam.

Battle Of Britain
Rousing stuff from Guy Hamilton, with never-bettered aerial sequences.

Freeway: Crack In The System
Fierce documentary from Marc Levin about Freeway Rick Ross, the man apocryphally said to have caused the crack epidemic in America.

The Bone Collector
Silly hunt-the-serial-killer shenanigans, with paralysed forensics boffin teaming up with rookie beat cop Angelina Jolie to catch a trophy-keeping psycho in New York. Dreck rather than dross from Phillip Noyce.

A Week In Film #293: Shed

The French Connection title screen
The French Connection
Ernest Tidyman (Shaft, High Plains Drifter) adapts Robin Moore’s pulpy non-fictioner about an intercontinental drug trafficking ring with gritty aplomb; William Friedkin directs with manic energy, giving us one of the best extended chase scenes in film, a dirty, pre-gentrified NYC as a character, and turning solid character actors Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider into dependable leading men (of a certain kind).

Heat title screen
Michael Mann refines and improves upon his earlier LA Takedown. It’s glossy, it’s overblown, and Pacino is in full HOO-HAH, but still, I don’t quite understand why so many people deride it.

The Aristocats title screen
The Aristocats
Walt Disney’s last movie, about some jazz cats in pre-WWI Paris. Not particularly memorable plot, given that I don’t remember anything about it.

Threads title screen
Grim nuclear holocaust business, with Sheffield getting nuked and everyone dead or dying. Didn’t realise director Mick Jackson later did a bunch of Hollywood stuff like The Bodyguard.

A Week In Film #128: First riot of a long, hot summer

Inside Job
Rather spiffy, old-fashioned documentary (talking heads, occasional question heard from the filmmaker) about the 2007-10 global financial meltdown, focusing on Yankee robber barons,. and rather angry to boot. Good work from Charles H Ferguson.

Christopher Walken is McBain, rescued from death at an NVA prison camp on the day the Vietnam War ends. He vows that he owes his saviour his life. Roll on a few years and said angel has become the leader of a Colombian revolution, only to be killed live on TV during a failed coup. Obviously this means his sister (Maria Conchita Alonso – who else) going on a mission to America to seek out McBain and persuade him to avenge her brother and his popular uprising.

Yes, it’s The Deer Hunter meets Uncommon Valor meets The Magnificent Seven only much, much worse. Apparently the producers managed to get Fox to back down and rename The Simpson‘ Arnie-like character Rainier Wolfcastle.

Dick Tracy Vs Cueball
Cheap and cheerful B-movie with top tech Tracy (this time Morgan Conway) on the trail of homicidal jewel thief Cueball (Dick Wessel).

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome
Ralph Byrd’s turn to play the fedora-topped detective, investigating strange nerve gas-assisted robberies perpetrated by Boris Karloff’s British baddie, Gruesome.

The Statement
Boring, dull, uninspiring, flat ‘thriller’ about a former Milice collaborator (Michael Caine) being passed around a right-wing Catholic underground rat run after his cover is blown. Norman Jewison directs, with little excitement. The prologue sequence, with a younger actor playing the main character as a younger man, may have worked better by not dubbing Michael Caine’s voice over the top. Kind of takes the pathos away from a scene, for obvious reasons.

Pretty compelling documentary about a year spent with a bunch of American soldiers holed up in an observation post in the Karengal valley in Afghanistan, co-directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist killed early on in the Libyan revolution.

Just wanted to see the opening score and then the bank heist; forgot how fucking long it is though!

No End In Sight
More Charles H Ferguson documentary business, this time taking on the Bush Administration and its occupation of Iraq. Scathingly non-neutral.

French Connection II
I remembered John Frankenheimer’s attempt at a sequel to Friedkin’s kinetic classic as being better than it seems on second viewing.

Still, it’s pretty good, with Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) being packed off to Marseilles to track down heroin smuggler Frog One (Fernando Rey), only to find himself a fish out of water, chasing red herrings and used as bait (Marseilles, it’s a FISHING TOWN, d’yageddit?!?!).

Still memorable for the being-forcefed-smack scenes (especially when salvation seems near with the sweet old lady) and the final chase scene, though.

A Week In Film #102: Catching up

Skeleton Coast
Seriously one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Ernest Borgnine (oh Ernest!) is an ageing military man who pulls together a crack team of mercenaries to help him extricate his CIA son from rebel capitivity in Angola. To help him there’s that priest from The Mummy plus a bunch of B movie journeymen (and woman). Oh, and Herbert Lom (oh, Herbert!) briefly appears at the start as a shady arms dealer-cum-fixer. And Oliver Reed (okay, so Oliver needed the beer money) appears in the middle, apparently from an entirely different movie, as a diamond mine security chief. And Robert Vaughn as an East German colonel. Seriously.

You may not have liked Ted Kotcheff’s somewhat similarly-plotted Uncommon Valor, or shared its sentiment, but you surely could appreciate the quality of the craftsmanship.

Little Miss Sunshine
I bloody loved this – odd, dysfunctional family goes on road trip to beauty pageant for little girls. Hilarity ensues. Husband-and-wife directorial team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ace it. Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano and Alan Arkin take a bow!

A comfort film – familiar like an old sweater. Not even Val Kilmer can spoil it.

A Week In Film #049: Slowing down

LA Takedown title screen

LA Takedown
Michael Mann’s 1989 TV movie dress rehearsal for his 1995 blockbuster Heat. All the elements from that are already in place, from the ballet between two similar men either side of the law, through entire scenes blocked out in exactly the same manner, to dialogue that is barely changed.

Whilst the actors in this version are clearly not as proficient as those in Heat, what is particularly interesting is how those big name stars ape the cadences and mannerisms of their minnow-like predecessors.

I don’t go with the contrarians’ view that this is the better film of the two, but there is a very strong TVM here, and it’s worth watching.

Aussie comedian Eric Bana puts in an excellent performance as the lead in this unapologetically stylised version of the life of borderline psycho standover man Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. Andrew Dominik’s direction is outstanding, and there are fine supporting performances from stalwart Oz actors like Vince Colosimo (outstanding as Neville Bartos), Daniel Wyllie and Simon Lyndon, several of whom put in similarly memorable turns in historical crime drama series Underbelly (the second series of which features Chopper, played this time by Renato Fabretti).

The Long Good Friday
Classic British gangster flick, eschewing flashiness for rawness, glamorously muscled male models for cauliflower-eared, thick-necked lumps.

Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Derek Thompson, PH Moriarty, Dave King and Eddie Constantine are amongst the numerous actors who help keep things tight; the other big character in the film is the old East End of London, being torn down to make way for gleaming steel-and-glass palaces of conspicuous wealth and naked power. The actor with perhaps the biggest name at the time, Paul Freeman, is disposed of early on, but remains a presence throughout.

Direction is by John Mackenzie, whose work I’ve been belatedly getting into – A Sense Of Freedom being the best of his I’ve come across.

The History Boys
Written by Alan Bennett, with some schoolboys studying for their Oxbridge interviews, set in the 1980s, they learn about themselves, etc. Alright, but I can’t quite see why it was thought of so highly. Sorry, Andy.

A Week In Film #037: Overloaded

Monsters, Inc.
Rather fine Pixar/Disney animated feature about a pair of misfit monsters (Billy Crystal & John Goodman) on a quest.

The First Great Train Robbery title screen

The First Great Train Robbery
Another favourite, with Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Ann Warren as a team of Victorian crooks planning the ultimate heist. Michael Crichton directs this adaptation of his own book with brio, and there’s Jerry Goldsmith’s best score ever.

The Transporter title screen

The Transporter
The Stath as an ex-special forces type turned courier-for-hire who breaks his own rules and gets involved with some seriously bad people. Not cerebral, but thoroughly entertaining. The oil slick fight is superb. Co-directors Corey Yuen and Louis Leterrier keep things moving at a decent lick, and there’s engaging support from Shu Qi and François Berléand.

Alien title screen

Haunted house in space, Sigourney Weaver, xenomorph, etc. Classic stuff.

Aliens title screen

Marines in space, Sigourney Weaver, xenomorphs, etc. Classic stuff.

Alien 3 title screen

Alien 3
Convicts in space, Sigourney Weaver, xenomorphs, etc. Flawed stuff.

Alien Resurrection title screen

Alien Resurrection
Pirates in space, Sigourney Weaver, xenomorphs, etc. Fucking awful stuff. Joss Whedon bow your head in shame. I paid to see this at the picture palace, too. Not impressed.

44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out title screen

44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out
Very slick, very well made TVM about a real-life bank heist, with Michael Madsen leading a solid cast. Better than most big screen efforts.

The Rules Of Attraction title screen

The Rules Of Attraction
Roger Avery’s Bret Easton Ellis college novel adaptation, very unpleasant, very good. The dude from Dawson’s Creek is in it.

Banlieue13 title screen

Banlieue 13
Trés bon silliness set in a near future dystopia where les banlieues are used as a prison to keep les sans culottes in their place. David Belle as the ghetto idealist and Cyril Raffaelli as the cop he teams up with are a good pairing, and the action sequences show off their respective disciplines (parkour & martial arts) to the fullest effect. Pierre Morel directs with skill from Luc Besson’s paper-thin script, and it looks amazing.

Hot Fuzz
Enjoyable cop-based retread of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost relationship, with almost too many familiar faces.

Sunshine title screen

I really liked this Danny Boyle/Alex Garland SF number, about a space mission to save the Earth, but it seems I’m in a minority. I like the way it slowly unfolds, I like the tension, I like the unlikeableness of many of the characters, I like the sound design and the visual structure, I like the cast.

The Dark Crystal
Very disappointing Muppet-based sword-and-sorcery nonsense. Nowhere near Labyrinth in quality.

Layer Cake
Matthew Vaughn handles his material with confidence first time out the traps as a director in an adaptation of a novel about a nameless coke dealer and the scrapes he gets into. From this he somehow manages to make a well-polished and engaging little picture in which older character actors are given a chance to shine – Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris, Michael Gambon. Oh, and it’s blatantly Daniel Craig’s 007 calling card.

The Killer Elite
Dull, uninspiring lesser Peckinpah, with James Caan and Robert Duvall as a pair of US proxy spooks who end up on opposite sides. There’s no energy in it, and the fight scenes are amongst the worst I’ve ever seen. An interesting premise wasted.

Heat title screen

Michael Mann does cops and robbers in LA with Pacino and De Niro, and Andy McNab choreographing the mesmerising post-heist shoot-out.

Serpico title screen

Al Pacino as the cop who wouldn’t be bought, but could be shot. One of Sidney Lumet’s best pictures, and Pacino’s too, and with no happy ending. A classic New York film.

Nid De Guêpes title screen

Nid De Guêpes
Florent Emilio Siri takes Assault On Precinct 13 as his starting point and turns in a film far more stylish than anything Hollywood has produced in a long time. Four groups collide on an industrial estate outside Strasbourg on Bastille Day – a gang of burglars, a group of security guards, a multinational anti-terrorist team, and a massive and heavily armed band of Albanian bandits. If you’ve not seen it, and you like action pictures, seek it out. A strong cast includes Samy Naceri, Benoît Magimel, Nadia Farès, Pascal Greggory, Sami Bouajila, Anisia Uzeyman, Richard Sammel, Valerio Mastandrea and Martial Odone.

Porky's Revenge title screen

Porky’s Revenge
Third film in a franchise that lasted at least two films beyond its natural life. I have nothing of note to say, a bit like the film itself.

Thunderheart title screen

Michael Apted directs Val Kilmer in a barely-fictionalised account of the US war with modern American Indian society, based on the Pine Ridge siege. Think of it as a superior version of Mississippi Burning, in which the FBI aren’t whitewashed into heroes.